It was the autumn of 1985 when I walked down an aisle in the book store of the University of Calgary, and one particular book cover caught my eye. In fact, the cover of The Summer Tree, by Guy Gavriel Kay, didn’t merely catch my eye, but I felt like it snagged my whole soul as I came to a dead halt and grabbed the book off the shelf.
I only needed a cursory reading of the blurb before I was buying and devouring the book. And since I was buying it a year after it had been launched, it wasn’t long till the second book, The Wandering Fire, was also bought and devoured whole. And not long afterward, as Guy travelled around for the promotional tour for the the hardcover of book three, The Darkest Road, I got to meet him and ask, in breathless excitement, “Where did you get this mythology??”
With my reading of the three books, which comprised the trilogy called The Fionavar Tapestry, the only way I could describe how they made me feel was to say that I felt like my veins were filled with light. Twenty five years later, I can still pick up that trilogy and feel the same way.
What was amazing to me about the original cover art for all three books, painted by Martin Springett, was that they seemed to be one with the feel and soul of the books. The reason I was struck by that first cover in the book store was that it felt exactly like what was inside the book — and since what was inside the book affected me so deeply, that cover inevitably affected me too.
Eventually, because of that cover snagging my eye, I got introduced by Guy Kay to the eccentric writing of Robert Graves. And for the first time in my life, I found out about Celtic mythology, which I love madly.
And when Guy told me that one of his characters, Diarmuid, was patterned in tribute after Dorothy Dunnett’s main character in the Lymond Chronicles, I immediately rushed out to read those books too, because I wanted to see this character who was “like Diarmuid.” Ha! Anyone who reads here regularly knows how that turned out. Diarmuid, in fact, is “like Francis Crawford,” at least to some small degree. Because although Guy did a good job, there’s just nobody, in the end, who is “like Francis Crawford of Lymond.”
So I owe a lot to Guy Gavriel Kay and that first book, and to Martin Springett for being able to take the spirit of all three books and paint them, for the covers. I’ve been, once, to Martin Springett’s house, and seen the huge originals of those covers hanging on his walls. And I’ve got my own posters of all of them too.
This all came to mind today because I saw a notice that Guy’s latest book, Under Heaven, will be published in April. And that led me to this little “The Summer Tree 25th Anniversary” blurb on Guy’s website, from last year. You can see him and Martin together, with the very first painting, the one that caught my eye that very first day on that original book cover.
Much of my reading and study history in the past twenty five years has been because of these two. I never forget this.